I was pretty stuck in a rut for a while during the winter. As spring approached, I promised myself that I would get out more and try new things. I practiced yoga when I was in high school and a little bit in college. However, it had been a while since I attended a class. I decided to embark on a 7-day yoga challenge. While it was filled with sweat, tears, and doubt, I ultimately left with a newfound attitude and body positivity I never could have imagined.
I was pretty nervous for my first class. When I try anything for the first time, my anxiety kicks into high gear and this instance was no different. I made sure to leave my apartment with ten minutes to spare just in case I couldn’t find the yoga studio or they happened to start early. Lucky for me, I go there with plenty of time to find a nice spot in the back of the room. The instructor was incredibly kind and she introduced herself to me right away. I have learned to not be so surprised by this anymore. Living in a small town, people are generally friendly. They also know if you’re new to things because everyone knows everyone around here.
The first class I attended was Power Yoga. This was probably a mistake but luckily it didn’t turn me off yoga completely. After the 10 minute warm up I was already sweating. We quickly moved through all of the poses, with the difficulty level increasing as we progressed. I was pretty proud of myself, as I only had to fall back into child’s pose once to catch my breath and “center myself.” It was the instructor’s birthday month, which meant doing as many leg lifts as she was old. 65! By the end of class, I could tell that I was going to feel this in the morning, but I felt great! My muscles felt looser and I stood up with a giant smile on my face. I stayed for a few minutes to chat with my instructor afterwards and in her words, I’m “a natural!”
Power yoga felt amazing, but my dogs were certainly barking the next morning. I thought it would be a good idea to take it easy for my next class so I attended a Hatha Yoga session. This was definitely more my speed. Since my muscles were a bit sore from the last yoga session, some of the poses were still a struggle for me. However, it felt really great to stretch my muscles. All kidding aside, I was really surprised to see a lot of older people (65+) attending this class. Not only that, they were kicking my ass when it came to holding poses. This, unfortunately, took my yoga practice in a different direction, meaning that I was comparing myself to the older people and pushing my body to do things it really wasn’t ready for. I felt a harsh pull in my shoulder, forcing me to modify my poses for the rest of the class. By the time we made it shavasana, I was beyond done.
I woke up at 5:30am to do yoga. And I did so with a smile on my face! This was the moment I knew that yoga had superpower control over my body, but in a good way. I looked at myself in the mirror while I brushed my teeth and could see that my skin was glowing and I looked more awake and energized than I had in a really long time. I decided to attend a Slow Flow Yoga class and, based on the title, I figured it would be good to wake me up for the day. As we slowly moved through all of the poses, I noticed that my body was no longer feeling sore. Instead, I felt myself getting stronger and more confident in what I was doing. Despite the fact that this was only day 3 of my yoga practice, I found myself getting the hang of this. More importantly, I understood why people preach about the benefits of yoga. I truly had never looked better!
With my newfound attitude and strength, I decided to give Power Yoga another go. After the 10 minute warm up, I could already tell it was going to be better than my first attempt at Power Yoga. I’d be lying if I said I could do everything perfectly, but it was definitely less intimidating than before. I realized in this session as well that not only was I gaining physical strength, but I was also emotionally stronger. I occasionally glanced at myself in the mirror when I was holding a pose to see how my form was looking. I liked admiring the flex of my biceps and the tightness of my claves. Instead of seeing my belly hang down or my double chin protruding, I began to admire the strength my body was using to hold up all my weight. This was a really good feeling and left me with great intention for my yoga practice.
I went back to the early morning Slow Flow Yoga class because it was the only one that fit in my schedule for that day. Again, I was surprised that it took literally no convincing to myself to wake up at 5:30. I normally have to tempt myself with a muffin in order to get up at 8! I liked this new perspective and energy! Slow Flow Yoga was a great wake up and recovery after my intense Power Yoga from the night before. I walked into class and it was packed. I literally grabbed the last spot in the studio. This made me a littler nervous and I wasn’t quite sure why. I sat in child’s pose to try to settle my anxiety and set my intention for my practice. I began to think again that I wanted to be here to feel better about myself and gain some body positivity. This class physically felt a little bit more difficult, but I think a lot of that was due to being on day 5 of my challenge. 5 straight days of anything can be physically draining on the body, but I was determined to persevere!
I decided to try Hatha Yoga again, thinking that my body was a little too tired to tackle Power Yoga. The instructor remembered me from the last session I attended, and that gave me a happy burst of energy to start my practice off right. Looking in the mirror during our warm up, my attention kept being drawn to my arms. I loved how they looked while holding the Warrior 2 pose. This may sound a little vain, but for me this was a huge step in the right direction. I am really quick to point out the flaws in my body. For the first time, I was pointing out what I loved before I pointed out what I disliked. During the entire hour, I was beaming. I liked this new perspective, and this new me!
For the last day of my yoga challenge, I decided to attend two classes; Slow Flow Yoga in the morning and then Power Yoga in the evening. My body was definitely getting tired, but I wanted to finish out my week strong. For this particular morning, it was more of a challenge getting up at 5:30; I think my exercise high was wearing off a bit. Nevertheless, I still dragged my butt out of bed and into the yoga studio. As soon as I got started I felt much better and more awake. It was a great session! I was pretty grumpy going to Power Yoga. All I really wanted to do on that rainy day after work was binge watch Gilmore Girls. I promised myself that I could do that so long as I went to yoga. I was able to hold the moon pose for five seconds longer than I had earlier in the week! This was huge progress! 65 leg lifts later, I knew it was time for a yoga break and I definitely deserved hours of Gilmore Girls watching. 🙂
In just a short week, so much about my body changed. My skin was glowing not only from doing yoga, but from all the extra water I was drinking. Practicing yoga often left me dehydrated, so I was drinking much more water throughout the day. I could see muscles slowly protruding out of my arms and calves. The best part, however, was how I began to perceive myself. I felt confident, strong, and full of body positivity. In my mind, yoga was no longer just for skinny white women who went on juice fasts for three days. Instead, I saw yoga as a way for older women to build community. A husband to support his pregnant wife by attending all of her Slow Flow Yoga classes. And for young, twenty somethings like me to set an intention and stick to it. I am not cured of my body insecurity. I still occasionally look in the mirror and wish I was 20 pounds lighter. However, I remind myself of the things I like about my body, too. While I don’t attend yoga everyday (and based on my experience I wouldn’t recommend that), I still commit to 3 yoga classes a week. I see familiar faces and we fill each other in on our lives. I also meet new faces every time I go. This has really helped me feel part of my community that has felt so foreign to me since I moved here 9 months ago.
Have you tried yoga before? How does yoga help your life? Share in the comments below. Namaste, yogis!
[images via Google]